St. Francis Center: A Ministry of Shelter
St. Francis Center, located in the Diocese of Colorado, serves as a “place of peace” for men and women who are homeless in metro Denver. Since 1983, the center has provided a safe and stable place for their guests during the hours that night shelters are normally closed, while also hosting an extensive network of services designed to meet basic human needs.
The root of the Center’s work, according to Executive Director Tom Luehrs, is to continue the Gospel mission of serving Jesus’ “least of these” in their region. With this in mind, Luehrs and his staff seek to provide a continuous place of safety and protection for the very vulnerable, offering a direct housing program, a health clinic staffed by full-time doctors and health care providers, mental and physical health services, employment help, street outreach, on-site social services, clothing, sanitary facilities, and assistance in securing vital documents.
In order to provide these services, St. Francis Center has developed strong and sustained relationships with people across the region. From members of the Denver business community, concerned with unsafe conditions downtown, to a municipal homelessness commission on which Mr. Luehrs serves, to local healthcare workers staffing their clinic, the center remains deeply responsive and attentive to the needs of their community. St. Francis Center’s accomplishments are not in short supply; indeed, in 2013, the last year for which figures are available, the staff served 10,000 different clients, and helped find regular, full-time employment to nearly 500 guests. Additionally, with their newly built 50-unit residences, they provided or found housing for 331 people in desperate need of stability.
Part of remaining responsive to the community is participating regularly in dialogue with area congregations, with the understanding that the needs felt in Denver are impacted by outlying communities, and vice versa. One fruit of this dialogue is the rotating women’s shelter developed by several parishes in the area, including the downtown Episcopal Cathedral of St. John. In this program, guests are transported to a safe night shelter located elsewhere in the city, and provided with a warm supper and breakfast.
St. Francis Center, originally founded by the Diocese of Colorado, has evolved into its own non-profit organization, though it maintains its faith-based mission. The center was affirmed as a Jubilee Ministry by Executive Council in 1995, committing itself to providing both direct services to and advocacy on behalf of the poor.
God of compassion, your love for humanity was revealed in Jesus, whose earthly life began in the poverty of a stable and ended in the pain and isolation of the cross: we hold before you those who are homeless... Draw near and comfort them in spirit and bless those who work to provide them with shelter, food and friendship. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen. (The Church of England, topical prayers online)